“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” Cicero
I am taking an online class titled A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment. True story. This is my 2nd week. This week’s lesson was that one of the surest ways to find happiness in life is to be grateful. This week’s assignment was to write a letter to someone to express gratitude. The recipient of the letter could be anyone: a parent, sibling, teacher, best friend, etc. I decided to write to an ex. The next assignment was to either send them the letter or call and read it to them. I did both. Over-achiever. This a two-fer: I completed a school assignment and got one of my Firsts out of the way. Woohoo!
It wasn’t one of those “breaking up with you was the best thing I ever did so thanks for getting the heck out of my life” letters. Not at all. It was a sincere, heartfelt, thank you to someone who has been a good friend (now that he isn’t my crazy boyfriend). Just kidding – sort of kidding and also sort of serious.
Background: when I was 19, I lived in a house that can best be described as a House of Free People. There was a lot of “freedom” amongst myself and the other twenty-somethings that lived/visited/parlayed in the House of Free People. One Friday night someone brought over a couple of very young teenaged boys to the House of Free People. These boys were 13 or 14 tops. Someone decided it would be fun to give them alcohol. I disagreed. I took the boys up to my bedroom to watch TV with me instead of getting drunk with the older Free People downstairs. That’s it. They went home later and I never saw them again – until I saw one of the boys 15 years later.
Fast forward 15 years: I didn’t recognize him, he recognized me (now aged 34 – he was 28) and he reminded me of that night. He said I changed his life, in a way. No, he didn’t abstain from alcohol and become a monk and save the world’s exploited children. He listened to every word I said that night up in the room and he remembered every detail of everything. He idealized me as the standard of what a woman should be and had been keeping mental score of every woman he had met since then and compared them to me. HE REMEMBERED EVERYTHING. I was 19 at the time and probably pretty full of myself. This was all was quite flattering and a little spooky. But I got sucked in.
So at age 34, I dated the man that this boy had become. He was a very kind, soft spoken, gentle person who was crazy in a way that few people can honestly claim to be. Not violent crazy or dangerous crazy, just paranoid crazy. That “down-home” crazy, that “it skips a generation” crazy, that “don’t overlook the quiet one” crazy. But when he wasn’t completely paranoid, he had the wisdom of a sage. It was amazing. He has had some great insight in the 10 years that I have known him and we have remained friends. I love him dearly. And yes, he knows he’s crazy.
This is the letter I wrote:
Dear Ex Boyfriend (not his real name),
I want to thank you for being my friend and my confidante. I have always felt comfortable talking to you about the things that happen in my life and in my mind and in my heart. Ever since the first time I met you (again), you have always let me know how much you love me and care about me as a person. I love and care about you too and I don’t think I told you that very much when I was in City Where We Used to Live (not the city’s real name). You have always believed in me and had positive encouragement for me even at times when I was down and didn’t see a solution or a way out. You are the calm, voice of reason when I am usually the hot-headed, loud and irrational voice. You have encouraged me to get closer to my spirituality and I have resisted for so long, but now I see that it is part of the key to my peace of mind and finding the happiness that resides inside of me. I didn’t really listen to you, not because I didn’t trust or believe you, but more because I just didn’t have the same life experience as you and didn’t understand your point of view a lot of times. I am glad that you never did give up on me and you were always patient and waited for me to come around. Even though I moved away, I appreciate that you are still my friend and talk to me on the phone. I feel grateful that you are my friend to walk through some of the tough times with me. You are honest with me when I am out of line and need to work on something and I am listening and taking what you say into consideration. I trust you as my close friend and I love you very much. I’m glad we have what we have. I love you with all of my heart and soul.
Me (not my real name)